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Free radicals: creative minds and new energy will enable market recovery.

The first thing I must say is that the downturn is over. Doubting the recovery is easy because it is not taking the shape with which we are so familiar. Although not readily recognizable, businesses will all need one important characteristic to survive: brand new models.

What we do as process enablers--for instance, those of us who provide capital equipment are no longer simply equipment suppliers--will have a formative impact on the shape of the high-tech sector that emerges from the downturn. Who will supply research and development (R&D)? We will. Where will new process development occur? In our own organizations, as we continue to transform our business relationships into enabling partnerships. All new deliverables, all new market measures.

Our responses to the technical challenges presented by the markets leading the upswing will, literally, shape the future. New component packaging styles, particularly leadless, chip-scale packages (CSP) and assembly technologies including embedded passives, will allow designers greater freedom to experiment with the form, dimensions and configuration of end user products. The designers will need this freedom to create the emerging multifunctional, super portable, radical new products typified by wearable electronics and e-fashion. The need for creative approaches and new processes for cost-effective production in the advanced packaging sector is critical to the current transition from leaded devices. An example is the high-accuracy mass imaging of electronic materials at the wafer and substrate levels for cost-effective area array interconnections.

We are genuinely positioned at the tip of the curve of enabling technologies, not just for semiconductor original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), but particularly the newer business models: outsource packaging specialists, die prep houses and rapidly growing original design manufacturers (ODMs).

A technology showing great potential as the next killer application is speech recognition. With a myriad of applications, it has the potential to drive significant upgrading. Yet a case can be made that the future will not be built on a discrete number of technologies, as witnessed (and relished) with the personal computer, cell phone and network infrastructure booms of the late nineties.

Right now is precisely the point in time where we need to innovate in radical ways. I agree with Gary Hamel that the most important business issue today is making innovation both radical and systemic. Businesses have to find and stimulate smart minds; they have to uncover the right way to unlock the creative energy in more than just some select assigned group within our organizations.

Marshalling new energy to create real solutions that can be developed and marketed requires diligent management. So we need to be thinking about hiring and developing not only creative minds, but also the minds that can manage the creative process.

Recovery is happening now. Sure, it is not the kind of rebound we came to know and love. I am doubtful that any dramatic technological rebound will happen until substantive improvement in the telecommunications sector has occurred. Much of the next generation of electronics is based upon the concept of the convergence of communications and computing. As long as one half of that equation remains on the sidelines, that next generation of electronics will be slow to develop.

And long term, slower growth expectations may be the most radical change we in electronics find ourselves making.

Rich Heimsch is president of DEK International, Zurich, Switzerland; e-mail: rheimsch@dek.com.
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Title Annotation:Guest View
Author:Heimsch, Rich
Publication:Circuits Assembly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2003
Words:556
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